Padres general manager A.J. Preller took the baseball world by surprise when he hired Andy Green to manage the club. Most fans had probably never heard of the 38-year-old before the search to replace interim manager Pat Murphy began in earnest during the 2015 offseason.
Since the Padres chose Green on October 29, 2015, he has received solid reviews despite the thankless task of managing a team aiming for the bottom of the standings and high draft picks. Media members just need to ask him a question and then sit back because Green will talk and talk; however, I think he might have talked a bit too much when responding the day after Anthony Rizzo’s illegal take out slide of catcher Austin Hedges.
In the aftermath of the collision, Joe Torre, chief baseball officer for MLB, admitted the play violated the rule but declined to penalize Rizzo in any way. Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler strongly reacted to that decision, saying in an interview on The Mighty 1090, “It was probably the most egregious violation since the rule went in, and to do that with no repercussions, I think, is pure BS.”
Jhoulys Chacin started the second game of the series against the Chicago Cubs and faced, guess who, Anthony Rizzo, batting leadoff. Before the game, Green warned Chacin against any type of retaliation. Of course, Rizzo homered on the second pitch and the Padres were shut out.
When Chacin revealed his manager’s instructions on Twitter, other social media platforms exploded with chatter about the Padres being soft. Craig Elsten and John Gennaro spent much of their “Make the Padres Great Again” podcast talking about the negative affect on the Padres’ clubhouse. Former Padres’ pitcher Randy Jones tweeted “If Rizzo wants to lead off and crowd the plate, I’d give him a fastball alright…about neck high.”
Of course, baseball has changed since Jones pitched in the 70’s and early 80’s. Pitchers regularly threw inside, and if a batter got hit in the process, so be it. Now, MLB obviously wants to move on from the old school ways and the unwritten rules that may endanger the health of expensive players.
The fact that Green followed the directive of MLB not to retaliate is entirely understandable. However, his lengthy public pronouncements went way too far and could lead to far-reaching unintended consequences.
Green basically instructed his pitcher not to worry about protecting his own catcher, thereby signifying that opponents could take out Hedges or other backstops with impunity. He made it clear that batters could crowd the plate and not worry about brush-back pitches. He announced to all of baseball that the Padres would not protect their own players no matter what.
Of course, Torre and MLB deserve part of the blame for this situation for two reasons: the league chose not to enforce its own rule and then warned the Padres not to stand up for their player in any way. Would the league have reacted in the same way if the team involved were the New York Yankees instead of the lowly Padres?
The end result: If you catch for the San Diego Padres, it seems you can’t count on protection from the manager or the league, so be careful.